That ELO (?) backround harmony vocal stacked sound (?)

I don’t know for a fact, but it wouldn’t surprise me if ELO made heavy use of an Eventide unit to get that really tight, pitch-perfect harmonization. I don’t object to that, but personally never cared for it. I much prefer the sound groups like the Raspberries or even ABBA would achieve – natural, simple, and gorgeous.

Of course NONE of them come close to the rich, beautiful harmonies that the old groups got, groups like the Moonglows, Platters, Pied Pipers, etc.

I’m not a big fan of harmonizing with oneself. Obviously, if you’re doing your own thang at home on your DAW, it’s better than nothing. But I think it’s often better to employ somebody else with a voice that compliments your own.

The great harmony duo’s were, uh, great because of the interesting ways their voices combined with each other: Everly Bros… John, Paul, and often George… Simon and Garfunkel.

Michael Jackson (by way of Quincy Jones) created some nice harmonies with himself, however, and it sounds like he made pretty heavy use of a Harmonizer. It worked for him, and the music of his era.

Except for Country, I think those days are past us.

I know I haven’t addressed your question… sorry :laughing:

They were musicians in a time when musicians were musicians so they had practiced their butts off to prepare for all sorts of musical high precision acrobatics like being able to sing without autotune but instead including ear training, harmony classes and harmony singing.

But you can try a VST compressor …

He was backed up by Roger Taylor and Brian May as well. John Deacon prefered to just play the bass. I liked Roger Taylors voice better than FM’s, much rawer and it was him that sung the top harmonies, not Mercury. Listen to “Live Killers” to hear mr. Mercury cheap out and chose a lower melody than the original! I can’t listen to that album anymore! Never the less he’s heads and shoulders above just about any other frontman/composer/singer. Brian May had a softer voice that probably blended well with the other two. OTOH he did his own guitar harmonizing stuff that nobody but Les Paul himself ever tried. Queen was … a good band hahaha! :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses: :sunglasses:

BTW listen to what Les Paul and Mary Ford did … IN THE FREAKING FIFTIES!!! :astonished: The only explanation is that they didn’t know any better. They didn’t understand that they couldn’t do that so they did it anyway. Today some of it sound a little corny but from a technical standpoint it’s flawless!

And Mary Ford sung harmony with herself. I never understood why you can’t do that? I know there is a mantra exercized by a large number of people that harmonizing with yourself is not a good idea but I don’t think it sounds bad, strange or in any way inferior to havinging two or more different singers??? :confused:

Record each harmony 12 times and pan 6 left and 6 right. You want each pitch to be sightly off to create the chorus effect. If you record a take that’s too off delete it and re-record it.

think solo violin VS string section :wink:

Use Cubase! :bulb: :laughing:

you can set the locators in Cubase to loop over a small portion of the song and while it’s playing over and over you zoom in with your mind and ears on the melody and learn it to perfection i.e. learn how your lead vox sounds so you can repeat it to perfection one section after the other. If you listen to a loop like that you start to hear it in a new light so to speak. Little inflictions you didn’t notice at first jump out at you etc. Try to parrot it perfectly and eventually you really know the lead line.

Then you can figure out the first harmony line and record that. The same with a third individual line if you really thing you need that. After that it’s just doubling and adding an octave above and/or below and more doubling.

Did I say more doubling? Don’t forget that! :slight_smile:

You certainly are not Freddie Mercury. Never will be, or anything even close.

Now, go punish yourself. You deserve it.

Yup sheer number of tracks gives the fat chorus effect. record with compression and add a bit on the group too

The good thing today is that in cubase you can easily edit the multi tracks to tighten up the consonants.

btw - I once read a thread, on gearslutz I think, between some guy and the Earth Wind and Fire engineer George Massenburg about how a certain vocal sound was achieve on one of EWFs albums. Guy was convinced it was effects. Massenburg tried hard to convince him it was just sung that way.

I used to record mass vocal harmony on 24 trk machines by copying a rough mix of the tune onto another 24 trk tape and using the other 22 tracks to build up huge overdubs of harmonies. then mix down and spin them back onto the main multi-track as a stem pair.

Yeah forgot to mention, you’ll get low mid build up and have to cut it out. :slight_smile: - try singing some bass harmonies to add to the mix too :slight_smile:

Ah, the limitations of ONLY 24 tracks…those were the days > :slight_smile: > Just think that if only The Beatles had Cubase back then! I doubt if Paul M. would have his bass on just the left track.

I occasionally come across some old 60s soul MP3s in my collection that have instruments hard panned. Sounds quite refreshing. :slight_smile:

I’ve done that, too, but I did it the real man’s way – using a 1/2" 4-track and a 1/4" 2-track!

What a lot of people don’t know is that all the Beatles albums except the last two (Abbey Road, Let it Be) were first mixed in mono – the Fab Four, George Martin, and Geoff Emerick sitting in front of a mixing board driving a single center-mounted speaker. Then, after the Beatles left, Martin and Emerick would produce “stereo” versions, and when the Beatles heard them, they invariably HATED them.

It was only recently that a boxed set of the original mono recordings was released, and, completist that I am, I bought it. I think you can buy some of these individual mixes on iTunes now.

As Steve said, the stereo mixes leaves a lot to be desired, at least as far as the modern ear hears them – bass and drums to the left, guitar and harmony voc to the right, etc. Still, the strength of the songs mitigates this aspect.

But the mono versions are a revelation. In mono, a song like “Ticket to Ride” sounds MASSIVE – a huge wall of glorious sound coming at you. I bet if I played it back over just one HUGE speaker it’d sound even better. The way they were meant to be heard

I agree with what’s been said: double each harmonie a few times, cut the low frequencies and pan them left/right.
Watch out with high frequencies as well, they shouldn’t overpower the lead vocal.

One more tip: don’t sing all the esses, t’s and d’s etc. with all the harmonies, you never get them to sound at the same time.
For instance if you sing ‘friends’, only sing the ‘s’ with the lead vocal (or one or two of the harmonies) and sing ‘friend’ with the rest of the voices, otherwise it will sound like ‘friends-s-s-s’. Also don’t emphasise the ‘f’ in this case, or it will sound like ‘FFriends’.

Good luck!


Aloha Steve
in 1970 I worked with the 5th Dimension in Vegas (Ceasar’s,Flamingo etc) and in those days
the guitarist in the band (me) had to travel/be on call for the singers so they could practice
harmonies at any time.

They were constantly working on their vibrato so that the oscillations would be the same or complimentary.

I have found over the years that very few vocalist can change the rate of their vibrato at will but
these guys were able to do it.
I have also heard stories that the band ‘Alabama’ would lie in their beds at night
and practice this same technique.

I love this thread!

Curteye, I think I know what you mean about the vibrato … but can you give an example or so to clarify? Thanks!

BTW, Steve - can you give a link to a song, or name a title, in particular that has that stacked sound you are describing (I used to love ELO back in the day!).

Is it a different stacked sound than heard in “Because” by the Beatles? (I guess I’m not allowed to put a youtube link on this forum?)

Thanks for this tip Wim. I am going to use it next time I unleash my voice on Cubase!
regards - Robin

Sure A,

The best examples come from instruments.

Think of a trombonist and pay attention to the slide.

When the player hits the note and starts the vibrato it starts slowly and builds in speed and then ramps back down in speed.

I dont know if you younger guys have ever seen a Leslie speaker in action.

Usually used in conjunction with a Hammond organ (B3/C3/A100 etc) the top and lower part of the Leslie rotates. (Well the bottom does not actually rotate but there is a baffle that ‘swishes’ the sound around).

When the player activates the ‘Leslie’ function, this changes the speed of the rotation; but it is not instantaneous.

Like in the trombone example, the vibrato starts out slow, then builds in speed and then ramps back down.

To hears some great organ examples of this, check out some (old very old) recordings of Booker T and the MG’s (Time is Tight etc)

This technique can be achieved by a vocalist but the singer has to be very good or work really hard to do/learn it. Usually both. Tho’ one time I heard a maid in my hotel doing it as she was cleaning rooms. Some folks have the talent and don’t even know it. (lucky stiffs)

Now scale this up to a group of singers.

The Mills Brothers and Andrew Sisters or Glady Knight and the Pips, Alabama, Carpenters
could nail this.

This is called: ‘Blood Blend’ meaning that families grow up talking/listening and singing in the same way. ‘It’s in the blood’ was the way it was put to me.

Give it a try yourself.
Start singing a note and then apply vibrato.
Now try and change the speed of the vibrato. With practice (and some talent) it can be done.

Now if you can get a number of singers doing it at the same time, the result is magical.

These days I am practicing Mongolian throat singing. I’m terrible at it but I’ll keep trying.
(It’s fun to do and it annoys my wife:)

Notice that nothing I have written here (re: vocalist) has anything to do with recording gear.
Once you get the vocal source happening, then
it’s time to slap on your compression,eq, verb etc and ‘bob’s yer uncle’.
And the better the vocals, the less of that other stuff is needed.



Steve, You’ve probably gotten enough tips that you should just proceed with the harmonies
and discover what works best for you.
Back in the 80’s and early 90’s I’d put the ‘wall of sound’ harmonies on many of my tunes, because I was
such a fan of The Beatles/Utopia etc etc…but I’ve sorta gotten away from that now in an effort
to not sound too dated. Many of those over the top recording techniques have been left behind by
many because they they sounded sooo freakin big, but not necessarily real, and they were a big reason why
so many bands never sounded as good live as they did on record.

Why not try just doing the harmonies once, then blending them the best you can and add compression and
either delays or reverbs to sweeten, blend them into your mix and see how that sounds.
If you still want it bigger, then try doubling them and repeat the process - rather than starting with 5 layers
of each part without even hearing what it sounds like with less. You may find that you like it a bit more organic sounding.

Check out this tune I sang lead and backups on for Ian and Helen Lares back in '06(for the Cybase II Project). Each harmony was sung just once, and I think it sounds pretty big. The harmonies begin at 1:15.

Who cares about sounding dated? In fact when everyone else is trying pretend they are not middle aged you’ll probably carve a nice little niche in going retro. :slight_smile:

Over the last year I’ve purposely listened to very little music that’s this side of 1990. I spent so much energy trying not to be dated and keeping my finger on the pulse I neglected the old stuff. I’m catching up! :smiley:

Who cares about not recreating it live either. Stack up those harmonies if you want that sound. :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Don’t worry. It’s something only a songwriter would understand. >> :slight_smile: <<

It’s got nothing to do with pretending anything . It’s about evolving as an artist. I used to do it that way.
After a while I felt I was being too predictable, too static, so I began trying new things, not for anyone elses sake, but to satisfy myself.

Soo…let’s hear this ‘finger on the pulse’ music you speak of, or were you just speaking theoretically while
feebly attempting to throw in a couple of digs? :mrgreen: